Mistakes Are Career Assets. Capitalizing on Yours?

Mistakes are vital to success. They’re the fuel, the awakenings, and the pathways to achievement.

Each mistake is an aha moment, some more painful or illuminating than others.

You need your mistakes to keep moving ahead, to get better, to reach your goals. Embrace them to extract the most benefit.

Asset building

Most of us hate making mistakes. The worst are the ones we get called out on, the ones everyone knows about, and those that make us look inept. Me too.

Our mistakes have an uncanny ability to put us in a strangle hold that’s difficult to shake off. Mistakes sap our:

  • Self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Desire to try again
  • Feelings of self-worth and self-belief
  • Optimism about the future

In reality, our mistakes aren’t the culprit. We are.

We’re the ones who give negative power to our mistakes when we:

  • Inflate their significance (This will haunt me my whole career.)
  • Attribute dire consequences (I could get fired because of this.)
  • Beat ourselves up (I am such a loser.)
  • Feel beaten (I just don’t have the talent for this work.)

Most of us over blow our gaffs at work. Making mistakes, though, is something we have in common with each of our coworkers, and even our bosses. No one is immune.

The old adage is true: If you aren’t making mistakes at work, then you aren’t doing anything.

Mistakes are a sign that you’ve taken action toward the results you’re being paid for. No one thinks you’re trying to make mistakes. So when you do, let it be known that you’ve learned something.

Few of us make mistakes that are catastrophic. Most of them are more like atmospheric disturbances than category 4 hurricanes.

A mistake pinpoints a situation-based skill or awareness level missing in your arsenal.

When you make a mistake, you need to figure out:

  • What it was
  • What caused it
  • How to correct it
  • How to avoid it in the future

Each mistake gives you the chance to expand your capabilities, savvy, and confidence– career assets with a real future pay off.

Capitalizing

Instead of fearing mistakes, learn to accept and embrace them. The mistakes most detrimental to your career are the ones you keep making under the same circumstances. So you need to avoid being a recidivist.

Believe it or not, most bosses are encouraged when they see you turn a mistake into a learning moment, followed by efforts to improve.

Here are some typical mistakes and how to capitalize on them:

  1. Performance errors–You make an error setting up a spreadsheet, making key metrics unreliable. A coworker catches it. You see where you goofed and quickly come up with a better control that you share with your boss. Your credibility is restored.
  2. Relationship misreads–You put your confidence in a hard-driving coworker to complete an important part of the project you’re leading. When you ask for the status, you’re told all is well. You accept that, but when the deadline arrives, her part is incomplete. You admit to your boss that you never asked her for specifics and that you learned how not to be caught this way again.
  3. Naiveté–You volunteer to serve as acting supervisor for your work group while your boss is on leave. You’ve attended supervisory training, know the work, and believe you have leadership skills. Soon you realize your coworkers aren’t accepting you as their supervisor. Interpersonal issues arise and the work erodes. When your boss returns, you debrief him, explaining what you’ve learned and your plan to improve.

Don’t hide

It’s tempting to want to hide from your mistakes, but that only devalues them and erodes your integrity. Admitting and owning your mistakes is the first step to capitalizing on their value.

When your coworkers and boss understand that you see mistakes as the way that you improve, they’ll be inclined to help you.

Owing your mistakes sets a powerful example that doubles their asset value, turning them into real career capital.

Here One Day…Then? Accepting Self-confidence As a Work in Progress

We know it when we feel it. When it’s in our grip, we soar. When it leaves us in the lurch, we land hard.

Self-confidence, by definition, is:

  • Being sure of your own abilities
  • Trusting those abilities
  • Having faith in them
  • Feeling assured you really have them

Self-confidence is in our heads. It’s the way we assess ourselves and decide if we’ve met expectations–our own and others.

Every day, readers find their way to my posts on self-confidence using search phrases like:

  • I’ve lost my self-confidence and I don’t know why (or I do).
  • I need help getting my self-confidence back.
  • No matter what I do, I can’t find self-confidence.

I get it: I’ve uttered those words myself.

It’s universal.

Everyone struggles to build and maintain self-confidence.

The way we see ourselves changes. The way we process feedback changes the way we see ourselves. New experiences test our abilities either adding to or detracting from our self-confidence.

It’s a moving target which makes maintaining self-confidence a work in progress.

Most of us don’t like that. We want our self-confidence to be a constant, something we can draw on anytime like a fat bank account. But that would take the growth factor out of living and working.

We can’t grow and get better if we’re all comfy about our self-confidence. We need to be kept off balance a bit, so we will push ourselves.

Consider this:

No matter how accomplished someone is–how famous, how rich, and how long they’ve been on top–loss of self-confidence will occur time and again.

So when our self-confidence sinks, we need to stop all the woe-is-me talk and get cracking.

The only real way to build or restore your self-confidence  is to act, to keep doing whatever will re-energize your belief in yourself.

You may have to turn to family, friends, and/or advisers to get you thinking more positively, but in the end, it’s about you getting busy.

Famed country singer and actress, Dolly Parton, after a meteoric early career, had to face an unsuccessful movie, tensions with big players in the industry, and the loss of her personal support system (long time friends who were moving on with their own lives.) She felt alone and became unglued.

She wrote in her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business:

I collapsed. It seemed that all my support systems had disappeared. The very foundation of all my beliefs had been shaken. The dreamy little kid from the mountains had become a fat, disillusioned, hopeless woman.

She stopped singing, playing guitar, and writing. She felt that people had given up on her because they thought she’d lost her drive. After some lengthy, painful soul-searching, she snapped out of it, writing:

It’s okay to think that about Dolly Parton, but better not stand in the road in front of her. I was about to come roaring back.

Self-confidence is a commitment to yourself, no matter if the cards seem stacked against you or how you were raised.

Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern, a veteran of over 80 films, revealed on ABC’s Live with Kelly & Michael, that as a child he was considered, by his parents, so uninteresting that he had to raise his hand at the dinner table in order to speak.

Dern clearly found a way to build his self-confidence anyway.

What to do?

When your self-confidence flags, you might follow these steps to reinvigorate it:

  • Figure out what caused its decline (Answer: who, what, when, where, how)
  • List prior achievements that initially built your self-confidence; internalize them.
  • Commit to being optimistic.
  • Recommit to patterns of behavior and actions that brought prior success
  • Learn and adopt new approaches that make sense.
  • Keep working, participating, and putting yourself out there.
  • Build momentum, assess your progress, make mid-course corrections, and keep going.

Self-confidence comes from building your capabilities and doing things successfully

As people, we are all a work in progress, and our self-confidence is our engine. Get ready to rev it up!

 

Supervising a Bad Apple? Consider Making Applesauce | Handling Problem Employees

“A rotten apple spoils the whole barrel,” it’s said. That means someone let one bad apple rot. Who?

Sadly, I’ve heard plenty of supervisors whine about problem employees and then, by doing nothing, let them spoil the work environment and their careers too. There’s no excuse for this.

Apple analysis

Supervisors are responsible for all the apples allocated to them.

Not every apple is crisp and shiny. Some have dark spots from bruises. Others have shriveled from their time in the barrel. A small number are decaying under the weight of the other apples.

So we need to pick through the barrel and:

  • Put the good ones in the frig so they’ll last
  • Turn the bruised ones into applesauce or pies
  • Discard the truly rotten ones

This way we save most of the lot, getting full value from it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to “bad apple” employees, the first inclination by many supervisors is to come up with a plan to “throw them out.”

They use strategies like:

Passing the buck: The supervisor tells HR the employee is simply a bad fit and asks them to find the employee a job in another department.

Building a case: The supervisor starts to “keep book” on the employee, logging every performance and behavioral misstep, negative impacts on coworkers, complaints about them, and “potentially dire consequences” to the company if retained.

Driving them out: The supervisor makes the employee’s life as miserable as possible by either ignoring or constantly confronting them, nitpicking, reassigning work they like, and creating a no-win environment until the employee can’t take it anymore.

In these scenarios there will never be applesauce or pie.

Giving every apple a chance

Remember those bruised apples and the shriveled ones? Part of a supervisor’s job is to preserve them.

Here are some approaches:

Stop using the label: Whether you’ve hired or inherited a” bad apple,” stop using that label to describe him/her. It’s a negative that stokes dislike, fosters bias, and blackens their good points

Get over your dislike: Take your emotions out of the equation. Your job is to direct, correct, motivate, communicate, and provide feedback that will turn unacceptable behavior around.

Focus on actions: Discipline yourself to deal objectively with your employee’s actions and his/her  impact on the company and coworkers. What you see and hear is what matters, not what you suppose or interpret.

Insist on improvement: Provide specific feedback on areas of improvement, options for achieving it, and milestones to be met. Create clear accountability for making improvements in work output and relationships, with stated consequences if not attained.

Do what you say: Be trustworthy by delivering on your commitments to support  the employee’s improvement initiatives and on the actions you’ll take if they don’t turn around.

Employees who have successfully become bad apples stay that way because they’re getting what they want.  Unfortunately, for some, it’s a badge of honor that they flaunt. Some may be bullies, slackers, or malcontents.

The truth is that some of these employees have gotten themselves in a “negative identity” box they can’t get out of. Sometimes it just takes an effective supervisor to do what’s needed to help them get onto a better path.

Consider all the “bad apple,” ” bad actor” athletes who bounce from one team to another, until there’s that one coach who turns them around. There are examples everywhere that supervisors can follow.

Bad apple employees aren’t usually any happier in that role deep down than the supervisors who have to deal with them.

At least make applesauce

It’s easy to look into the barrel, see one rotten apple, and decide to throw them all out. No business can sustain that and no supervisor can justify it. Our job is to get the best out of our employees, recognizing that all of us have flaws that, if ignored, can be ruinous.

We need to deal with every employee in an open and fair way, helping them to realize their full potential. Perhaps they’ll thank you for helping them with a shiny red apple.

Photo from t1nytr0n via Flickr

Career in a Rut? Partner Up and Push. | A “Business Fitness” BOGO

Careers are personal. They’re about what we want from our work life and what we’ll risk to get it.                

Navigating our career path can be lonely. What it takes to be successful isn’t always clear. The messages we get may be vague or conflicting. Our coworkers may have agendas that don’t include us. 

Going it alone is how many manage their careers. That makes about as much sense as trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or master tennis without a support system. We all need someone in our corner to keep us going; they need us too. 

A rescue offer 

I wrote Business Fitness: The Power to Succeed—Your Way to make managing your career easier and to get beyond the fluff. 

If you’re ready to get serious about your career planning, I’d like to make it easy for you get (re)started: 

For all of January 2012, I’m offering buy one get one (BOGO) free, signed copies of my book.  

Just go to my website “book” tab and add one (1) copy to your cart for $19.95. (I’ll know to send two by your date of purchase.) Shipping is free in the continental U.S. 

A great career development strategy is a powerful thing. Here’s how you can us the book to build yours.

The power of partnering 

When building your career, there’s real value in partnering with someone you trust and respect, someone to hold you accountable for setting goals and staying the course for success. 

There reasons galore why we benefit from the support of a partner: 

  • It’s difficult for us to see ourselves objectively. We need a filter. 
  • It’s difficult to stay motivated when things go awry, when we’ve been disappointed, and when we lose our optimism. 
  • It’s difficult to stay up when our self-confidence wanes, self-doubt haunts us, and opportunities have been missed. 

Whether careers are exotic or mundane, they often progress in mysterious and unpredictable ways. The only aspects we control are the choices we make, the capabilities we develop, the chances we take, and the relationships we form. 

Along the way, we need to  build momentum around our efforts until the pieces take shape and a picture of our career emerges. A “business fitness” partner can keep us on track.

 Keep pushing 

Finding career success isn’t easy. It means always pressing forward. Funny, how we continually need to push and be pushed. So give this approach a try: 

  • Select a single partner or small group (no more than 5)
  • Agree to meet at a set day and time (at least twice monthly)
  • Use your first meeting to establish ground rules, particularly confidentiality around information shared. Then share what kind of success each of you wants right now.
  • Assign one chapter from Business Fitness to be read and discussed at each meeting. Agree to share answers to the inventories at each chapter end.
  • After all the chapters have been discussed, go back and (re)write your career goals and share. Hold each other accountable for specific statements.
  • Use each subsequent meeting to review progress on goals, provide insights and support, and identify ways to help each other move forward. 
  • Make the meetings and the process fun!

This process is part book club, mastermind group, and individual mentoring/coaching. As you progress, you’ll come up with endless next steps that will build your capabilities, strengthen your self-confidence, and deepen relationships. 

Career building takes discipline. There are no shortcuts that are sustainable. When we’re at our best, we feel business fit. To get there, we need each other.